Finding your right bra size

Ever since I started fitting bras, I've been perplexed by the old measuring system of adding four or five inches onto the under-band to get your size and the more women I fitted, and the more bras I designed I began to question and research why we used a system that was obviously not working for so many women.

With Vanjo set to be re-leased this coming month, there will of course be a section on sizing, on how to find your correct size. As we know a 32D in one brand fits differently to another 32D, with there being no set standardisation in sizing. Team this with different brands using different measuring charts, you can see why us ladies are filled with frustration of the simply task of buying lingerie.

Whilst Vanjo might have a different measuring system to some companies (one company I worked for used a 1950s size chart much to my confusion). Slowly I have seen other companies rid of the old sizing system to a newer sizing way.

So whilst I'm not advocating that my system is the best, I'm hoping that by explaining my measuring system and why getting fitted for a bra it can be confusing I'm hoping that the information you take from this can help you with your own bra no matter where you buy your bras from.

There use to be a couple things that riled me about lingerie design, one being I couldn't often find my correct size (hence why I started Vanjo), and two being that ‘fitters’ measure me and tried to put me in my wrong size.

When I first started working as a designer for high street stores (ah hum eighteen years ago!) I questioned why, when we measured a lady we added four or even five inches to her rib cage to get her size, we don’t do this when we want a pair of jeans – why do we for bras? With no answer apart from, oh that’s how everyone does it, I began to look for the reason why.

When bras first started out, you needed to add around a women’s ribcage as the fabric had no stretch and it was a comfort issue. We’ve moved on with fabric considerably to the point where you can a laser-cut seam bra, yet we haven’t all moved on the system of measuring. 

getting fitted for a bra

It's a vicious circle really - with so many companies still sticking with the old way of measuring, women aren't being offered their correct band size (a woman measuring 28 inch will be offered a 32 inch bra) so as they are not being offered their correct size, they can't buy their correct size therefore there is no demand for those sizes, and if there is no demand then retailers won't bother to stock those sizes and only sell what they currently selling. And the circle begins.

Currently we are in a system where some retailers/brands measure (and fit) to what you measure and some still stand by the old system of adding four or five (if you measure an odd number) inches onto your size. No wonder you can come away with the wrong size. If you're going into store make sure that the fitter is fitting you not just measuring you. If you tried a pair of trousers on and they were too big you'd try a size down wouldn't you?  Your best size bra is the one that fits you. So if you tried a 34C on and the band rode up the back you'd try a 32D on (a 32C would be a whole cup size smaller). The key is to try and arm yourself with as much information as possible about what's a good fit.

Now like all things where there is a system, it may not work for everyone, so far with my personal experience when fitting a bra if the lady measured above a 36FF, the sizing sometimes didn't always ring true. But it was a great starting point to then look at what size they needed. Also below a B cup I found it more personal preference of how a woman wanted to wear her bra, as the less breast size and volume (so weight) you have, the less you have to support, so you may not want your bra to hold your ribcage snugly. 

Speaking from having been an array of sizes, (I was a 32DD/30E pre children, hit 32FF at the biggest of my pregnancy, went to a 30D afterwards then settled into a 30DD) and whilst being a 30D (measuring 30 inches around rib cage and 34 inches around fullest part of my boobs) I found that in some brands I could easily wear 32C.


SO what bra size am I?

If you want to start to work out your size in Vanjo lingerie measure around your ribcage – this will indicate your band size, so if you measure a 32, you will wear a 32 inch back.

Then measure around your fullest part of your breast either in a soft bra or crop top, and then subtract the band size measurement from the bust measurement and determine your cup size as follows: (for example if you measure a 32 band and measure 37 inches around the fullest part of your breast. Then the difference is 5 inches so that would give you a DD cup, a 32DD would be your size.


  • . less than 1 inch = AA cup

  • . 1 inch = A cup

  • . 2 inches = B cup

  • . 3 inches = C cup

  • . 4 inches = D cup

  • . 5 inches = DD cup

  • . 6 inches = E cup (US DDD)

  • . 7 inches = F cup (US DDDD)

  • . 8 inches = FF cup

So how are the cup sizes worked out? (the technical bit)

Well when a bra get graded from one size to the next 5cm is added in total around the body, so the projection of the cup increases by 2.5cm (approx 1 inch, this is why this method starts to wavier above a FF cup as 2.5cm is not exactly 1 inch). So a 32DD pair of boobs are projecting out further (by approx 1 inch) than a 32D pair of boobs. So your cup size is related to how it is graded. 



When a bra get designed and made, a designer will measure the sample against a spec sheet, on that spec sheet is an under-band stretch, and it has to past a certain stretch, therefore measuring 32 around your under-band , a 32 bra depending on the brand/make will fit, yes it may feel tight, but like your trusty pair of jeans that stretch with wear, so will your bra.

If the old style of measuring is working for you, and you're happy with the fit of your bra by all means keep following that way. But if you're not happy with the fit of your bra, you're always adjusting it, or want to throw it off the moment you get home; then try the method of what you measure under-band is what bra size you wear. For whatever reason we are prepared to accept that in some shops we could be say a size 10 or a size 12 but few people are wanting to budge on their bra size.

To show how ludicrous the old system of measuring can be. I put my measurements into bra calculators for them to tell me my size. I measure (approx) under-band 31 inches, over bust 35 inches, I usually aim to wear, depending on the brand a 30DD/30E because i like the band to be tight,  or would wear a 32D/32DD if the band is too tight aka can’t breathe level!

So on: -  It’s states I’m a 36AA - It states I’m a 36D

Which is a bit mind blowing really. Now there are some bra sites which get my bra size right, and some which mainly give me a 36D, but I've only shown a couple of sites which are not linked to being able to purchase lingerie from. The idea is not show brands that may or may not get it right, it's not about calling anyone out, this is about being more aware of your own body and bra size and what works for you. Don't worry if your cup size seems to go up, a well fitting bra will alter your silhouette and make you look slimmer, feel more comfortable and make clothes fit better.

It shocks me that on websites such as the above they tell you that wearing the right size bra is important, and sadly some shops don't get it much better either. So whether you are online shopping or store shopping, try on your new size and just check out how it feels. If you don't like how it feels, you've lost nothing in trying something new. But if it changes your world. Your welcome!

Vanjo lingerie will be out in late September.

A look into "how to become a lingerie designer" book



CHAPTER ONE: Lingerie - A brief History

This chapter takes a look at the lingerie through out history, including Warners buying 'Mary P Jacob' bra design patent, facts about that women were asked to stop wearing corsets and this freed up enough metal to apparently  build two battleships (for WW1).

lingerie a brief history from how to become a lingerie designer

It also looks at the change in shape through out the years that the bra took, with the advanced technology of fabrics and elastics. This chapter takes you through each decade with facts and how the changing shape of the bra and changed the attitude towards lingerie.

It also questions the bras place and function and how women are fitted still using the 4/5+ system. With the garter belt and stocking dying out will the bra follow place? Or do you think it's here to stay?

For those who are obsessed with Vintage lingerie - check out Under Pinnings online lingerie museum, which documents vintage lingerie.


This chapter takes a look at where to look for gaining for inspiration for your designs. Inspiration comes to us in many forms for designing, it could be images, photos from magazines, or fabrics. I recommend starting a private Pinterest board and over a course of a couple of weeks pin images that inspire you every day, and then take a look at the end and you should see a style emerging.

Within this chapter is also the low down on copyright laws for your lingerie designs and a list of Lingerie Magazines and Fashion magazines which I've found helpful in the past for inspiration.

inspiration and designing from how to become a lingerie designer


This chapter looks at analysing the market you're aiming for. It talks about Identifying your target market for your lingerie designs and who you are going to be making and designing for. Covering if you have trouble deciding who is your target market, because at some point I'm sure we've all been in the situation where we have 101 ideas going around in our head.

Three main points that are covered that I think important about the direction of your brand are:

1. Passion: Being passionate will carry you through when you are spending every working minute on your brand.

2. Niche: Designing for your target market means you cut out some of your competitors  

3. Style: A strong style brings recognition and trust from your customers.

Also this chapter covers how to keep on track season after season.

target market for my designs from how to become a lingerie designer



This chapter leads you through the importance of keeping a sketchbook. It also covers designing mood boards for lingerie and a list of internet sites to help you create your mood-board if you don't have access to Photoshop or Illustrator.

sketchbooks and moodboards (chapter four) in How to become a lingerie designer


The blog covered how to draw a fashion model, and it covers it in the book as well. This chapter covers the importance of fashion drawings and how they are relevant to the fashion industry today. 


fashions drawings from how to become a lingerie designer

And all the information that you need to write on a pattern.

For those who need a place to start on pattern making then lingerie patterns can be bought from this website.


Unlike fashion drawings, working drawings are also known as 'technical drawings', always drawn flat and never from an angle. This chapter looks at basic working drawings, and ones with stitch lines and fabric representation. 

working drawings for lingerie


This chapter covers where patterns began, and the joy of using the same pattern to create different looks.

It also looks at  the three methods usually used to create a lingerie pattern:

1. Flat-pattern Method

2. Drafting Method

3. Draping Method 

How to become a lingerie designer - a look at patterns


This chapter  covers starting out with soft bras then looking at underwire bras, and explains the two type of bras, cradle or non cradle. It will also show you, how you can create different looks by just using one pattern. (When running Vanjo I only had one style bra for four years) .

Designing around the bras is the most important aspect of designing, and this chapter will show you the starting point of using your wire to start your pattern.

A look into making a bra pattern in how to become a lingerie designer



This chapter covers 'what is a spec sheet' why to use them and what goes on them. It also shows you the industry measurements in which the sizes increase or decrease. A lot of people in the industry still manually enter the sizes, which if you then have to change the sample measurement, it takes an age to change the other sizes. This book shows you the formulas you can use on Excel to automatically fill in the sizes. This chapter covers measuring both briefs and bras.

how to write a specification sheet


This chapter covers what grading is, and using the information we gained from chapter nine (specification sheets) and shows you the basic way to grade on a brief pattern. It also covers cross grading - how a bra cup volume 32C can be the same cup volume as a 36A, and when to not use the standard grade.

how to become a lingerie designer - grading


This chapter covers what a sample spec sheet, and why it's important to use them for you, it also includes what to put on them. (the book image is from How to write a tech pack for a bra and brief).

how to become a lingerie designer sample sheets


This chapter covers the basic way to make a costing, it guides you through measuring elastics and fabrics to working out how much 1 meter of fabric will make. It also gives you an example of a broken-down cost sheet to look at. *Remember the bigger companies will always be able to compete on the costings - look for something else for you company to offer*

working out costings for lingerie


This chapter covers the decline of manufacturing, and the pros and cons of hand-making your lingerie or getting it manufactured, it also gives you a couple of lingerie manufacturers in the UK.

Image inside Stitching Academy in North London

Image inside Stitching Academy in North London


This chapter looks at doing your photography in the studio or location, whether to video it, and what you might need.

chapter 14 of how to become a lingerie designer - photoshoots
shooting a lingerie photoshoot  outside



This chapter covers all the extras you may need to consider,  such as your website and business stationary.


This chapter covers showing at shows, contacting buyers, the pros and cons of sale or return and gives you a list of lingerie trade shows. 


This chapter covers the formatting of press releases and working with your journalist.


This chapter gives you a brief overview of UK and online Lingerie courses.


This chapter covers interviews with independent lingerie designers, who at the end get asked "What words of advice would you give to aspiring designers?"